The unfortunately frequent sentence "My horse is colicky" is not true!" actually describes only that the horse shows signs of pain. In most cases, this pain originates from the digestive system, as this is the most commonly affected. However, there may be other reasons. These can range from harmless to life-threatening. Since this cannot be estimated at the beginning of a colic and the condition can also change very quickly, a colic should always be considered an emergency and a veterinarian should be called immediately.
Things to know about colic causes
What are the causes of colic?
The cause of colic in most cases lies in the gastrointestinal tract of the horse. Both the stomach and the small or large intestine can be affected. Other causes that lead to colic signs include:
– Pain from the urinary tract (z.B. bladder stones). Renal colic' – pain coming from the kidney due to urinary stones (kidney stones) – is extremely rare in horses, so this is a very unlikely diagnosis. – Diseases in the genital tract, for example, twisting of the uterus during pregnancy or twisting of the testicles. – Pain in the thorax, for example in the case of severe pneumonia affecting the pleura – Neurological diseases – Laminitis – Severe itching or the presence of deer lice flies in the horse's environment (raving colic attacks)
Causes of acute colic in the stomach are mostly stomach overloads. Gastric ulcers are more likely to cause chronic recurrent colic (link). Since horses cannot vomit due to a strongly developed esophageal sphincter, stomach overload can lead to a rupture of the stomach. Primary gastric overload is when there is a blockage in the stomach due to ingestion of too much food or swelling of unsuitable feeds. A secondary gastric overload is present when the disease is found in the small intestine. When the patency of the small intestine is restricted, there is a back up of the mash and gastric juice – called reflux. If this circumstance is not corrected, it is possible that the stomach can no longer withstand the prere and ruptures (stomach rupture).
The picture shows a stomach with a tear (bottom left of the picture)
small intestine obstruction
The small intestine is a long tube that connects the stomach to the appendix. Due to kinking during a turn or entrapment in existing abdominal structures (z.B. groin rings), there may be an interruption of the blood supply. This represents a very painful. Life-threatening form of colic. Reasons for buckling can be very diverse. Thus, especially in young horses, the small intestine can twist around several times until a knot is formed or the small intestine can get stuck in internal body openings, such as the inguinal cleft or the so-called foramen epiploicum, an existing gap between the liver, pancreas, vena cava and hepatic vein. An obstruction of the small intestine usually has to be solved surgically. The existing openings such as the inguinal cleft or the 'foramen epiploicum' can be closed as part of the operation or even in a separate operation. more
Rarely, small intestinal obstructions occur due to the feed mash, these can possibly be solved by means of conservative therapy.
The picture shows an obstruction of the small intestine due to a twisting of the small intestine, the dark part of the intestine has died off
Small bowel obstruction due to a fatty tumor (lipoma pendulans)
One form, more common in the older horse, is caused by a benign fatty tumor (lipoma). These so-called lipomas grow at the mesentery of the small intestine. Can reach a considerable size. Due to their own weight, these fatty tumors develop a stalk. Then hang like a pendulum from the intestine. These pendulums can last an entire horse's life without complications, however, the pendulum can wrap around a loop of small intestine. If it has come so far, the pendulum slowly tightens and leads to an interruption of the blood supply of the affected small intestine. Horses with this form of colic usually show severe pain and if the pendulum is not released there is a high probability that the affected section of the small intestine will die off. A small intestine obstruction caused by a lipoma must be surgically solved (colic therapy – colic surgery) existing lipomas are removed in the process. more
The picture shows a stalked lipoma (white round structure) which has cut off the small intestine, the dark part of the intestine is dead